The wind rose to a storm. Rain drummed on his armour, soaking the clothes underneath. His eyes were heavy, and his body sluggish, as they walked on the paved dark, street. They had been up for many hours that night. They had trained for the danger they sought, the enemy that always lurked in the slums. He recalled the time of his boyhood when screams of anguish echoed through the night. Nobody would come to save them then. He thanked the stars when he proved himself and was able to join the army, only to curse them again when he realised which unit he’d end up with… The beast was rare outside the slums and he had prayed, morbidly, that it would stay there within his lifetime.
He spat on the ground and clutched his halberd tightly, determined to survive the night.
Their unit was split into groups of four; too few for what they were hunting, he thought, but he had no say in the matter and followed his captain away from the others. At least he felt a bit safer when they were forced into a line on the narrow alley. He was at the centre with one man behind him and two in front.
He glanced up at the dark windows. Nobody would be out this night, not until their job was done. Earlier they had been surprised by a cat that had sprung from the shadows. They had to kill the poor thing, their nerves on edge. They reached the end of the alley and they stopped. Street Light shone in the distance but they did not look directly at it to preserve their poor night vision. The beast could not be heard or smelled, and when it was seen it was often too late.
It boggled his mind that man had made it this far into creation with their poor senses. Perhaps they really were protected by God? He said a short prayer beneath his breath that he recalled from childhood. He thanked his grandmother for teaching it. After some hesitation, the squad leader stepped into the open and left the alley. He had barely gone a few feet out into the open before he was flung away, his body arching through the air. It took a moment before he crashed loudly in the dark somewhere, his armour hitting the pavement. The light turned suddenly dark and the men screamed; some in defiance, others in fear. He was silent. Weapons were drawn and swung wildly. He felt himself being struck over his shoulder, then on his back. His knees buckled from the pain until he felt a force on his head and everything went black.
He awoke many hours later with a throbbing head. It was daytime and people murmured from the windows, keeping their distance. Around him, the mangled bodies of his comrades lay scattered. He slid in the blood as he tried to stand. When the people saw that he was alive, they swarmed on him, knives high. Everyone knew what happened to survivors after the beast’s attack.
© Christopher Stamfors